What teams belong in 2013-14 top 25?
by Nicole Auerbach and Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
Now that we know who’s staying and who’s moving on to the next level, we can start fully analyzing the college basketball landscape for the 2013-14 season. Yes, we’ve still got six months until the season tips off, but why not?
POST-NBA DEADLINE EARLY TOP 25
No. 1 Kentucky (This season: 21-12, lost National Invitation Tournament first round):
John Calipari’s recruiting class is nothing short of a masterpiece, with or without Andrew Wiggins, the top-rated recruit who’s drawn comparisons to LeBron James and has yet not signed with a school. (Kentucky is among his finalists.) Even if Calipari doesn’t get Wiggins, he still certainly has the best recruiting class in the nation coming to Lexington this fall. The vaunted incoming freshmen class – which boasts top-10 recruits Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison and James Young – will join Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress to form the nation’s deepest and most talented team. Of course, there always are questions about egos and team chemistry in situations like this, but if all goes well, the Cats will follow the footsteps of the Anthony Davis-led 2011-12 Kentucky team.
No. 2 Michigan State (27-9, lost in NCAA Sweet 16): Two returnees who could have gone pro but chose to return to East Lansing – Adreian Payne (10.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and Gary Harris (12.9 ppg) – have transformed Michigan State from an always-solid Tom Izzo squad to a Final Four contender. The Spartans lose Derrick Nix (9.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg) to graduation, but Payne will hold down the fort in the frontcourt. Harris and point guard Keith Appling (13.4 ppg) will pair up in arguably the Big Ten’s best backcourt.
No. 3 Louisville (35-5, won NCAA title): Losing the veteran leadership of Peyton Siva and the talent of Gorgui Dieng hurts, but the Cardinals will return quite a bit from a national championship-winning roster. Leading scorer and eccentric personality Russ Smith, who averaged 22.3 points a game in the NCAA tournament, passed up the pros and will be unquestionably one of the best players in the country this season. Throw in Chane Behanan, Final … [For more on What teams belong in the early 2013-14 top 25?, click here.]